Two friends on a Vancouver-to-Toronto bike ride in support of the Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation stopped in Barrie today, just 24 hours away from their ultimate goal.
Longtime friends Olivia Mendocino and Julie Ann Chiodo are on their last leg; they plan to arrive in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon.
Mendocino and Chiodo have far surpassed their original goal of $10,000. They have raised around $30,000 through their Forever Lungs campaign, which is collecting funds in the fight against idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a progressive form of lung disease.
Pulmonary fibrosis is not well known, or understood, but affects tens of thousands of Canadians.
Mendocino and Chiodo have both been touched by it in our families.
They have had their spirits boosted by some familiar faces and home cooking in the last few hundred kilometres of their ride.
Mendocino met up with her sister, Adrienne, on Manitoulin Island, followed by her husband, John Rovers, as well as her children, 10-year-old Rosalie and nine-year-old Caja, not long after in Owen Sound.
“We’re in the home stretch. It’s been challenging for me, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without their support,” Mendocino told BarrieToday.
For Chiodo, she hooked up with her aunt Annette and cousin Adriana in the Tiny Beaches area, near Wasaga Beach.
“Seeing family and familiar faces and people you know, it has to be inspiring,” said Chiodo, who is a Canadian citizen living abroad in Germany. “Any time you’re closer to family, it’s a sign that you’re home. It makes us feel like we’re back.”
Chiodo and Mendicino have known each other since becoming friends on the soccer pitch while growing up in Etobicoke, Ont., and also played as soccer teammates while attending university in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s.
Mendicino’s father, Ettore, was diagnosed with IPF years later, and died from the disease in 2014.
Chiodo’s uncle, Carmen Ragno, was diagnosed with IPF in 2014, eventually receiving a successful lung transplant in February.
On Monday (Aug. 6) they rode through Collingwood. They hit Barrie on Tuesday. Their plan is to take the lakeshore trail to Huronia Road and then follow Side Road 10 south through Innisfil toward King City where Chiodo was going to meet up with her Uncle Carmen.
They expect to arrive at Sunnyside Pavilion Cafe, located on Lake Shore Boulevard in Toronto, around 1:30 p.m., Wednesday.
The duo left British Columbia on July 8. With some help to drive the following van (which doubles as a home away from home, including sleeping quarters), they were able to ride together for some distance through B.C., before switching to shifts on the bike in a relay style, with one of them driving while the other cycles.
They’ve been logging 160 kilometres a day, and will have cycled a total of 2,300 kilometres each by the time they wrap up their journey.
“On the road, it’s been fantastic,” Mendocino told BarrieToday at Heritage Park on Tuesday, adding drivers, particularly truckers, have been more than willing to share the road.
They said seeing the ‘Ontario’ sign and crossing into the province from Manitoba was a breath of fresh air. They said it felt like they were home, but soon realized they still had a significant distance to travel.
They met a man in Thessalon, Ont.., who has pulmonary fibrosis, which gave them extra incentive to keep pushing toward their goal.
For more information on the Forever Lungs fundraiser and to support the cause, visit www.foreverlungs.com. People are encouraged to donate to the campaign as well as register to become an organ or tissue donor.
For more information about the Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, visit www.cpff.ca. It’s a non-profit organization that supports patients, as well as their families and caregivers, while at the same time supporting research to find a cure.
-- With files from James Hopkin, SooToday